Remodelers like to trust their instincts when it comes to clients. “I'm a natural salesman,” many say. “I know how to work with people. I know how to handle them when they get mad.” But people skills are often more science than art — when the client is a couple with polar-opposite personalities, for instance, or is difficult to read or impossible to please.

In these cases, a personality profiling system can help. Anthony Wilder Design/Build, Bethesda, Md., uses a “client profile” questionnaire from DiSC (Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, Conscientiousness). Better known for its use in profiling prospective employees, DiSC can also reveal insights for building relationships with clients — such as how certain personalities like to be presented with information, or how they like to make commitments, or deal with problems.

Businesses can use DiSC in a variety of software- or paper-based configurations. Wilder uses a simple paper-based questionnaire with six multiple-choice questions. Several Wilder staff complete the questionnaire independently, then compile their answers into a “profile graph” that assigns one of four standard “DiSC styles” to the client, from “D”-style personalities (Dominance — control-oriented types) to “C”-style personalities (Conscientiousness — accuracy- and order-oriented types).

“We don't use DiSC on every client,” says CEO Elizabeth Wilder, but mainly “when we need a little direction” on how to work with a particular person or couple. “When we're presenting to a husband and wife, we need to make sure we can meet the needs of both,” she explains. Women often tend to focus on safety and security, being concerned “that we're not going to undo their environment,” whereas their husbands are more likely to be “dominant, bottom-line oriented — how much is this going to cost and when will it be done.”

Typically, the DiSC report corroborates employees' subjective impressions of a client, Wilder says. More importantly, it also offers a “sales action plan” on how employees should modify their normal behavior. “The further the person is away from your own personality type, the more you have to adapt,” she says.

Information about the DiSC system is available from many sales trainers and business consultants, including Remodelers Advantage (